Movie Review – The Eternals (2021)

Chloe Zhao’s Eternals clocks in at 2 hours and 36 minutes and despite the runtime, the movie meanders more often than it tells a meaningful story.

There is no better example of this problem than the film’s opening sequence. Five members of the team (the warriors) are sent out to defend early man from the otherworldly deviants. The fight sequences are fine, but the battle ends with the rest of the teams’ (the thinkers) arrival. This sequence shows them do nothing but pose alongside their teammates. Zhao’s choice to divide up the characters is a good decision, but proves the cast is too large to balance evenly.

The movie then jumps to the present day and follows Sersi (played by Gemma Chan), which again feels like a curious choice. Granted the movie is just beginning and is about to tell her story, but Sersi’s presence and accomplishments at this point aren’t enough to warrant the leading role in the story – something which proves true throughout the rest of the film. Chen get a few moments to shine, but they are far and few between and she tends to get swallowed up by her fellow co-stars’ personalities and performances.

Another issue the film faces is its narrative structure. The Eternals have been here for 7000+ years watching and guiding humanity, and the decision to bounce around does a disservice to the story and pacing of the film. Telling the story chronologically until Prime Eternal Ajak (Salma Hayek) sends the team off on their own would not only establish the cast as individuals but also as a unit. Plus, their decision to get together would be more impactful, which would allow the story to slow down in the present day.

This structural problem is indictive of another issue with the Eternals. The editing. The montage between Ikaris (Richard Madden) and Sersi shows them falling in love. The cinematography is gorgeous with the backdrop of Babylon, but the tender moments are intercut with erratic cuts between the characters, the civilians, and backgrounds. This is supposed to be a moment of closeness between two characters, but instead, it feels exhausting.

The rest of the movie uses the same technique, placing scenes at odd moments and durations such as when Ajak checks in with Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry) after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Phastos is plagued with regret and believes man isn’t worth saving. It’s a small but powerful moment. Rather than feel the emotional weight, the audience only gets a glimpse of it. These scenes tell the audience what to feel, rather than allow them to experience it organically.

The final act also rushes to introduce several plot points and concepts such as Druig (Barry Keoghan) and Makkari’s (Lauren Ridloff) relationship and Kingo’s (Kumail Nanjiani) refusal to join the fight. Nanjianai is the much-needed comic relief of this movie with his sidekick Karun (Harish Patel), so it’s an interesting choice to have him in this movie for as much as he is only to have him walk away from the fight. It’s a fascinating take on what it means to be a hero, but the lack of exploration and resolution makes the action seem more inconsequential than anything else

The movie quickly gets repetitive since they’re essentially collecting team members from around the world. Instead of focusing on the exotic settings, the movie could have spent more of its runtime paying attention to the characters and their motivations. We see glimpses of what could have been a very different movie from Marvel Studios, but instead the film doubles down on basic story elements, cheapening what could have otherwise been a complex character study.

Rating: 2/5.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The Big Comic Page was provided a preview copy of the film which contains bonus features like audio commentary with director Chloe Zhao and visual effects supervisors Stephane Ceretti and Marten Larsson, the behind-the-scenes documentary ‘Immortalized’, walks of life, gag reel, and deleted scenes – be sure to check out the deleted scenes Nostalgia and Small Talk – both add significantly to Sprite (Lia McHugh) and Makkari’s characters and motivations.

The Eternals is available on Digital January 12 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and DVD February 15.

Lawr_avThe writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511

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